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‘Don’t cross the line!’ is translated from Portuguese and is available in no less than 12 languages! It was awarded the German ‘Deutscher Jugendliteratur Preis’ in 2017. Check out the All the post which includes excerpts from the picturebook, an interview with the creators and loads more.

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To continue our Picturebooks in Translation theme for March, Gail has chosen ‘A Lion in Paris’ by Beatrice Alemagna. Beatrice is Italian and lives in France and writes in both Italian and French. ‘Un Lion à Paris’ was published by Autrement in 2006 and was winner of the Bologna Ragazzi Special Mention Award in 2007. It was translated into English by Rae Walter and published by the highly regarded Tate Publishing in 2014 as ‘A Lion in Paris’. The inside front cover which shows a map of Paris (Plan de Paris), the dedication page and signs in the illustrations remain in French. The English version flows naturally, and is faithful to the original. Here are two read-alouds in French of ‘Un Lion à Paris’ demonstrating two different video production approaches:

‘A Lion in Paris’ is a large book (39 x 29 cms) and opens vertically, with the verbal text on each top, white verso page and artwork on the recto page below. It tells the story of a lion who was bored at home on the grasslands so sets off to find a ‘job, love and a future’. He arrives in Paris by train and the reader is taken on a tour of well-known Paris landmarks. As he roams around Paris (we can follow his route on the map of Paris on the inside front cover) he is surprised that no one takes much notice of him or attacks him even though he brings attention to himself by roaring loudly in the Métro. He finds love at the Louvre where Mona Lisa’s eyes follow him with a loving, tender look. The city that at first seemed dreary, frightening and grey now seemed to be smiling at him with all its windows. He arrives at Denfert-Rochereau, a large roundabout, where he finds an empty plinth in the centre. He climbs up onto it and is welcomed by tooting cars. And this is where he decided to stay. So ‘A Lion in Paris’ tells the story of an outsider who looks and feels different in an unknown city and who gradually comes to view the city in a positive light and to feel at home. It is also a very personal story as Beatrice Alemagna points out in a note at the end of the book as it tells the story of her own arrival in France from Italy.

The illustrations and collage-style images mix reality with fantasy and children will enjoy discovering all the details. On the back cover there is a quote from Chris Haughton ‘Seeing ‘A Lion in Paris’ made me realise how beautiful picturebooks can be’.

In terms of English language learning, it could prompt activities that involve children in giving directions, sequencing, describing feelings and emotions and even imagining their own story of an animal or a person arriving as a stranger in their own city. It is also an ideal way to introduce children to the city of Paris and to French culture. As Françoise Bui, a French-to-English translator comments, ‘translated books allow readers to access different cultures and different perspectives… and a way of travelling without leaving your armchair.’

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This week Tatia shares her experiences of using translated picturebooks in primary teacher education. Whereas Sandie & Gail, have shared specific title suggestions for PELT, Tatia focuses on the benefits for student teachers of including original and translated editions in primary English teacher education:

Many years ago, I was chatting with a Dutch primary teacher and I noticed many picturebooks in her classroom. I pointed to a book called ‘De krijtjes staken [The crayons strike]’ by Oliver Jeffers. The teacher explained how much she and her class loved this picturebook. I agreed and mentioned that the title in the original English language edition was “ The Day the Crayons Quit’. There was total disbelief as she had never considered that this book was a translation. After similar occurrences, I realised that primary teachers often assume that the copy they are working with simply is the original. Often, teachers do not wonder, or do not have time to wonder, about the author’s background. Generally, attention is paid to the story, the flow, the illustrations, and possible related learning activities.

So, one day, I arrived in class with copies of picturebooks in the original English language editions and the translated Dutch editions. Student teachers and I worked with the English language front cover, the title and considered possible translations into Dutch. We discussed the translated titles and considered implications for the reader and listener. For example, the title ‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said the Sloth’ by Eric Carle is translated into Dutch as ‘De Luiaard die niet lui was [The sloth who was not lazy]’. The translator into Dutch favoured a play of words ‘luiaard’ is the sloth and ‘lui’ is lazy. Soon, student teachers realised that the translator had given the story away. Likewise, ‘Imaginary Fred’ by Eoin Colfer & Oliver Jeffers has been translated to ‘ Een Vriendje voor Altijd [A Friend Forever]’. Student teachers were most critical of this translation as it did not support the illustration (transparent looking friend) and missed the subtle connection between ‘Fred’ and ’Friend’. A final example was ‘The Truth About Old People’ by Elina Ellis translated to ‘Opa’s en Oma’s … [Grandpas and Grandmas…]’ which also received some criticism as every old person might not be a grandparent. Student teachers pointed out how the text in English contradicted the illustration but less so in Dutch. For example, a page with old people playing instruments reads in English ‘They say that old people are quiet’ and in Dutch ‘I also heard that grandpas and grandmas don’t make noise’. Student teachers felt the choice of ‘noise’ did not contradict the illustrations.

Working with copies of picturebooks in both the original English language edition and the student teachers’ language, has resulted in many hours of enriching discussions filled with speculation. It gives student teachers the opportunity to develop language confidence, language sensitivity, and visual literacy skills which they can then use to stimulate children in the classroom when working with the English language edition for primary English language teaching purposes. It also sparked their interest as they often asked me to bring in my own collection of Dutch picturebooks and their English translations such as award-winning picturebooks Tangramkat (Tangram Cat) by Rinck & van der Linden (translated into 9 languages including English ) and Vrolijk (Happy) by Mies van Hout translated into 16 languages (including English).

Thanks Tatia.

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Last, but certainly not least! Here comes Anneta Sadowska’s contribution to the PEPELT topic of March, translated picturebooks. Anneta shares her thoughts on ‘The Fox on the Swing’ by Evelina Daciūtė and illustrated by Aušra Kiudulaitė (Thames & Hudson, 2018) originally written in Lithuanian (there is no mention of who translated it!). It won the Batchelder Award in 2019 for best translated picturebook in the USA.

‘The Fox on the Swing’ is a ‘quirky’ picturebook, 48 pages in length with stunning illustrations, using colour to show mood, and and a verbal text in capital letters. It has been described as ‘Profoundly philosophical and optimistic, the book’s themes include what defines happiness and friendship, and how to measure what’s important in life. Sometimes it’s simply being satisfied with what you have, no matter how long that lasts, for happiness doesn’t depend on one person or thing. It’s coming to terms with change and adapting to new situations, as happiness can be found in any place, and that things have a way of coming full circle’.

Listen to Anneta talk about how she brought it into her class of 11 / 12 year olds followed by a short discussion with Sandie around why we bring translated picturebooks into the classroom and the value of this one in particular. Enjoy!